Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson, NY Jets QB
Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

At quarterback, the New York Jets made their future the past and the past their future.

The already-rare dead periods on the NFL calendar, and with them the opportunities for reflection and analysis, grow increasingly slim and fleeting in this day and age. When a team has just been through an offseason like the one the New York Jets experienced, it’s especially important to analyze exactly how they got better and if they came any closer to the ultimate goal.

Jets X-Factor is taking a look at Gang Green’s offseason position-by-position as the team prepares to embark upon one of the most fateful seasons in franchise history, for better or worse. The trip down a freshly-paved memory lane begins at quarterback

How It Started

Whether it was fair optimism or simply a way of coping with another lost season, 2022’s rallying cry was “a quarterback away.”

Had Zach Wilson‘s issues simply been injuries, history might’ve been kinder to him. His medical woes, which cost him six games over his first two seasons, at the very least provided his army of apologists and believers with an excuse to stand pat. Alas for Wilson, his play started costing the Jets games (i.e. three interceptions in the Week 8 loss to New England) and it was officially time to move on.

Neither Joe Flacco nor Mike White were viable long-term solutions. Flacco was never meant to be that at his advanced age while White was a charming story that gained a cult following amongst a fanbase far from used to even the most basic form of quarterback stability.

The same went for Chris Streveler, one of the newer New York preseason folk heroes. While it’s fair to acknowledge their fleeting moments of brilliance – Flacco had serviceably filled in while Streveler and White proved they’re at least worthy of NFL longevity as backups – if the Jets planned to escape gridiron purgatory, they had to do something under center.

How It’s Going

You may have heard that the Jets acquired a former Green Bay Packers passer this offseason. He goes by the name of Tim Boyle.

Boyle, of course, will engage with Streveler and Wilson in a battle for backup duties behind one Aaron Rodgers, who is far and away the finest quarterback the Jets have had in a decade without taking a single official snap. Comparisons will inevitably be made to the roller-coaster, downright awkward in hindsight, Brett “The Jet” Favre era, but several factors both in and beyond Rodgers’ control create noticeable differences.

Beyond the Favre analogies (and Rodgers’ well-documented off-field activities), it’s easy to see how this plan can go completely haywire. A deeper look at the proceedings, however, suggests that this might’ve been the best path for all sides.

Rodgers’ career speaks for itself. He’s at a point in both his career and his personal life where only something completely off the rails would either gain or cut off his supporters. The worst-case scenario for Rodgers himself is that he beats out Favre and Mark Brunell for the top spot on the all-time “Wait, He Played For the Jets?!?!?” team.

Likewise, what exactly do the Jets, as a franchise, lose if the Rodgers experiment doesn’t work out? They’re basically in the same spot they’ve been in since Joe Namath retired. Investing their future in Rodgers, even at his advanced age, will determine the franchise’s path. If he plays to even 80 percent of his long-established potential, it’ll be a fun five-plus months of football. Otherwise, they’re simply back at square one again – one that could lead to a shift in management. After all, if Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh can’t win with a Rodgers-led unit, draw your own conclusions.

The aura around the Jets’ understudies has probably gotten a little gray. Wilson’s shortcomings speak for themselves and neither Boyle nor Steveler offer much confidence if Rodgers has to miss any extended time. While a more prominent name or two might give Jets fans a greater sense of peace and security, the fact that backup quarterback is one of their biggest concerns certainly says something about how far the team has come.

Did They Get Better?

In terms of a Week 1 starter, the Jets went from one of the most undeniable passing busts in recent memory to one of the greatest throwers of the new century, lack of excess championship hardware notwithstanding. So, obviously, they got better – the worst of Rodgers is better than the best Wilson ever offered, at least to date.

A pessimist could say that the Jets are underprepared for a post-Rodgers future. It’s increasingly common (and wise) to carry both a current franchise quarterback and one capable of holding the role in three-to-five years. More often than not, that’s the same man, but that’s a luxury the Jets haven’t had in a long time.

That’s a problem that the Jets, as currently constructed, are comfortable with taking on. Opportunities like the one to take on Rodgers’ services don’t come by often and it’s inspiring to see them accept a challenge that carries “win-now” responsibilities with it, even if it could be interpreted as the last stand of a management group under severe pressure to perform.

The backup spot, should the Jets require it, could certainly raise some questions, but there’s definitely an aura of green familiarity to it, be it from New Jersey (Streveler, Wilson) or Wisconsin (Boyle). That obviously doesn’t make up for Rodgers’ sheer talent and it’s hard to envision any of the current backups being his heir apparent, but, again, with Rodgers in tow, they’re fine with crossing that bridge when they come to it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email: geoffmags90@gmail.com
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Harlan Lachman
Harlan Lachman
4 months ago

I am tired of experts writing tripe like, “They’re basically in the same spot they’ve been in since Joe Namath retired.” Chad Pennington played well for several years before getting hurt. The turmoil of Jets “leadership” and injuries does not diminish his years of excellence.
You must be too old to remember Ken O’Brien, the QB cursed by having almost every other team but Miami passing on Dan Marino, who never won a SB by the way. His tenure had more highs than Chad’s and he did benefit from Wesley Walker, but the Jets failed to provide championship GM and coaching during his tenure.
IOW, the spot the Jets were in with Richard Todd et. al. was all to depressing. But there were a lot of QBs with lousier QBs or winning teams who could have upgraded with a healthy Chad or O”Brien.

4 months ago
Reply to  Harlan Lachman

Harlan…introspection and writing “against type” is not the hallmark of modern sportswriters. Cliches and herd mentality too often fits the bill to complete the required assignment. Harsh critique aside, the overall tenor of the article is generally correct…in that it’s fair to question if the team handled the back-up QB correctly this off-season. They’ve put virtually all eggs in the Rodgers basket. If the egg breaks, they may pay with their jobs…not because they haven’t done well constructing a team, but because they were too willing to die with the Zach Wilson pick. There’s a side of me that remembers the very effective ZW performance for most of the 1st half of the 1st NE game, before he became careless and ultimately unglued by the pressure of being a leader of men in the NFL. His problems are mostly mental and I’m not sure you overcome that.

Last edited 4 months ago by Psi
Harlan Lachman
Harlan Lachman
4 months ago
Reply to  Psi

Good points all, Psi. I will add one final thought. All of us football experts have written off Zack W. for obvious reasons. However, as you point out, if Rodgers fails to produce, decent ownership will clean house (GM and coaches). The one exception would be if during the pre season, the coaches and Rodgers fix what ails Zack and he comes to the rescue. Seems like a very long shot but a cheap insurance policy too.